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Answer Man: Diversity, equity and inclusion director was not hired to oversee Bloomberg grant

Grant to address workforce equity comes with funds for day-to-day operations, which will fall under director position created in 2021 budget.

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Answer Man, 

The $1 million grant Rochester received through the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2022 Global Mayors Challenge has been a repeated criticism in the challenger’s campaign for mayor. Most recently, he said the city has a full-time employee to administer the program, adding that the city has to pay to receive the money. 

How much is the city paying to receive the grant? 

Curious taxpayer

Tapayer,

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While it’s true that the city has a full-time staff member who will oversee the grant, it would be incorrect to assume that means it’s her sole task or that her salary is an added expense related to the grant.

Rochester Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director Chao Mwatela, who will oversee grant-related efforts for the city, was actually hired a year before the Bloomberg grant was awarded.

With $160,000 budgeted in 2021 for costs related to the new position, Mwatela's primary duties include guiding city leadership and community partners in developing equitable city policies and projects.

Since the Bloomberg grant was awarded to address the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately drove women of color out of the workplace, it makes sense that some oversight would be directed her way.

The funding aims to help women of color enter construction-related careers in an effort to address disparities while also building a stronger local workforce as the city continues to grow.

While Mwatela will oversee efforts, the bulk of day-to-day operations will be funded by the grant itself, which will be boosted by $750,000 in federal funds to further the effort.

That means, with or without the grant, Mwatela would be on the city’s payroll in a position approved in a 6-1 vote by the Rochester City Council in 2020.

It’s worth noting that the one council member who voted against the 2020 budget that added the diversity, equity and inclusion director is no longer on the council, and the current council was unanimous in March when it approved acceptance of the Bloomberg grant for the proposed equity project.

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I’m sure some people will continue to question the grant itself, but it’s clear that any specific city cost connected to the grant has already been covered.

Send questions to Answer Man at answerman@postbulletin.com .

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